How a Dream Helped This Student Rise Above Challenges

College

This piece is part of Faces of Growth, a series of profiles that underscore the importance of looking at student performance and school effectiveness through the lens of growth, and not just absolute achievement. This series provides an opportunity to celebrate our students’ hard work and our educators’ tireless dedication.

“When I was in ninth grade, I would have never thought I’d be going to college with a $20,000 scholarship. If I would have gone to another school, I know I wouldn’t be in the position I am in right now,” said Mecca Herron, a senior at Ánimo College Prep Academy (ACPA). Herron has come a long way: as a freshman, her state testing results demonstrated a third grade proficiency in English. Three years later in her junior year at ACPA, she scored above grade level in English, growing seven grade levels in just three years!

Herron has always loved reading and writing, but when she got to middle school, her grades suffered. “At my middle school, there was no structure. You didn’t have a relationship with teachers--you just sat in class. I don’t even remember my middle school English teachers,” admits Herron. Her experience meant she slipped through the cracks when she should’ve been flourishing.

College

Though enrolling at ACPA was a fresh start, Herron was several grade levels behind and had to grapple with her negative school experience. “Students often come to us five to six grades levels below in reading and six to seven grade levels below in math,” said Trang Nguyen, Assistant Principal at ACPA. Despite the gap in incoming proficiency, ACPA students have demonstrated tremendous growth. According to CORE, students at ACPA grew at a significantly faster rate than similar students, putting them in the 75th percentile for growth on statewide assessments in English and the 95th percentile for growth in math!

One way ACPA helps students get back to grade level proficiency is providing those who need it with double English and math classes their freshmen and sophomore years. These additional courses help students strengthen their foundations and provide support as they work towards more challenging coursework. The school also provides a special advisory course that supports students’ socioemotional development and college readiness.

Herron leaned heavily on this additional support. “In ninth grade I still had my middle school mindset--I didn't care about class. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I really started realizing I need to pass these classes, I need to do better,” reflected Herron. She began seeking help from teachers before and after school and challenged herself to push past her limits. The growth didn’t come overnight; Herron struggled in school and with circumstances in her personal life, but found solace in her dreams of the future. “I want to study psychology because I feel like in low-income communities like this we don’t have access to psychologists. We don’t get to talk about how we feel,” said Herron. The vision to serve communities like her own has fueled her to stay on track during times of adversity.

Closer to Her Dreams

Now a senior, Herron reflects on her journey and realizes just how important attending ACPA has been: “This school has really shaped me into who I am, we’re a family here. Teachers stay after school helping students out and really go out of their way to support us.” Her hard work has paid off, in winter she was selected to be a Dell Scholar earning herself a $20,000 scholarship towards college, academic supports, a laptop, and additional assistance towards books and tutoring. Herron was introduced to the Dell Scholars program and scholarship through her school. The application process required Herron to write a series of short essay responses, a skill she’s developed and strengthened during her time at ACPA.

This spring, she was accepted to Langston University, a Historically Black College in Oklahoma, California State University, Northridge; Holy Names University in Oakland. Teachers and staff at ACPA are proud of what Herron has accomplished and the impact she’s had at the school. “Mecca is from a background with a lot of continued trauma, and she has just risen above. She’s become a role model for other students within our school,” said Nguyen. At Green Dot, we believe in the potential of all students and meeting them where they are, providing the support and education they need to be prepared for college and beyond.

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